K.K. Raghava – The Artist with a Mission


K. K. Raghava always believed he would grow up to be a famous artist. When he was 19, he dreamt his exhibition was launched by a famous Indian actor. Were it us, we would have surely laughed at ourselves waking up the next morning. But what K.K. Raghava did was, write a letter explaining his wish and dream to the most prominent actors of the time and one of them, Shabana Azmi actually came up and launched his first exhibition. Today Raghava is considered as one of India’s most successful young artist. He has also been named by CNN as one of the 10 most fascinating people in the world is yet to know of.

Having quit formal education at the age of 18, Raghava started his career as a newspaper cartoonist. Raghava had been always sure in his heart of what he wanted and today he is one of the most famous contemporary artists. He is a multidisciplinary artist and works in genres such as painting, sculpture, installations, film, and iPad art. But what made his works special is his creative and artistic ways of blending technology with art. In 2012, he built an interactive iPad app that was designed in a way that would inspire open-mindedness. The character in the app changed colours. For example, they become white black brown people carrying styles of Asians, Europeans, Africans, etc. Raghava believes  such apps broadens the perspective in a child’s mind and dissolves discrimination in society. “I grew up in the bubble of a very traditional Indian family and only saw one point of view,” he says. “I created this app because I wanted to expose my own children to many perspectives at a very early age.”

Raghava finds technology as an educational tool that helps him to reach out to the children and save them from boring chapters of textbooks. He has built another app to teach children geometric shapes not just as carefully measured drawings with pencils and scales but as alive objects.

As he put it, “We crowd source photographs of structural objects in the real world that physically demonstrate different shapes—using a car tire to teach circles or the pyramids to teach triangles. It’s a much more meaningful way to learn. This idea of many crowd sourced images all existing simultaneously could be a great way to take on some of the world’s bigger issues and shows multiple perspectives on different topics.”

The artist also believes in pushing boundaries and making interactive artwork. For Raghava interactive art isn’t a stunt, but a powerful way to broaden perspectives. “I like to question the way information itself is delivered,” he says. One of Raghava’s famous interactive artworks includes Mona Lisa 2.0 that changes its face, according to the viewer’s mood using brainwave technology. As he explains in his words “I start with an image of a grumpy old woman; I call her Mona Lisa 2.0. As you look at her, the EEG headset measures 13 frequencies from your brain waves to indicate if you’re stressed, calm, sad, angry, relaxed, concentrating hard, or anything in between. A computer algorithm processes those brainwave measurements and makes the woman’s face respond to your mental activity. As your emotions change, the art changes in real time—grinning, smiling broadly, frowning, scowling, or gazing peacefully."

K.K.Raghava is fighting heart and soul to help the children and the youngsters of today to come out of the biases the predominant ideas carried from past centuries. However, he is a fighter who dances! He sings and dances through his interactive and technological art works and reaches out to thousands. Through his works he urges people to think differently, to act differently and leave out all biases and unite as a whole of humanity. He admits, "I explore sensitive topics such as politics, identity, gender, sexuality, and conformity, but there’s often an element of humour to my work. I like to disrupt your thinking, but make you feel like I’m hugging you while I’m disrupting you. That’s why I frequently use the disarming aesthetic of cartoons to say something powerful. I want to make people think differently, without losing them along the way.” He also adds, “I can’t promise my child a life without bias — we’re all biased — but I promise to bias my child with multiple perspectives.”

Raghava travels all around the world with his words and colours. He is a four-time TED speaker, and he has lectured at several universities including New York University and  several art institutions around the world, including the New Hampshire Institute of Art (Manchester, NH, USA) and the Ecole des Beaux-Arts (Nîmes, France). He is also actively involved in a radical education initiative, NuVu Studios, an offshoot of Harvard and MIT, to redefine creativity in education.

His journey on the path of making art a tool to cure biases in societies the artist says, “I think the most important ingredient of happiness is to feel you are useful and adding value to the world. When I judge what my life has meant, it’s not how much money I’ve made or how many paintings I’ve sold. It’s whether I’ve used my art as a tool to give back and make a difference, large or small.”